- The first voyage of a vessel for its intended purpose.
Probably earlier than the 18th century.
The term “maiden” refers to the idea of something being “new,” or of the “first time.” Of course, it also references the fact that many vessels are colloquially referred to as “she’s.” Not to be confused with a shakedown cruise which occurs before a vessels enters operational status. History has more than a few instances of vessels sinking on their maiden voyages. The Titanic (you may have heard of it) met a rather ignominious end on her maiden voyage, courtesy of an iceberg.
Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport Museum.